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Sermon for June 19, 2016

Luke 8:26-39 (Fifth Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 7—Series C)

“What Jesus Has Done for You”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

June 19, 2016

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is the Gospel lesson recorded in Luke 8:

26And they sailed down into the country of the Gerasenes which is opposite of Galilee. 27Now a certain man of the land who had a demon came out and met Him. For a considerable time he had not worn clothes and he did not live in a house but among the tombs. 28When he saw Jesus, he fell down before Him, and crying out in a loud voice said, “What have I to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg of you, do not torment me.” 29For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out from the man. For many times it had seized him and when he was guarded, he was tied up with chains and shackles. But breaking the chains, he was driven by the demon in the wilderness. 30Now Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered into him. 31And they began to implore him that He might not command them to go away into the abyss. 32Now there was a rather large herd of pigs feeding on the hill. And they began to urge Him so that He might permit them to enter these. And He permitted them. 33And the demons went out from the man into the pigs, and the herd stampeded down from the cliff into the lake and were drowned. 34When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and reported it in the city and in the country. 35So they went out to see what had happened and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, dressed and in his right mind, sitting at Jesus feet, and they were afraid. 36Those who saw it reported to them how the demon-possessed man was saved. 37Now all the people of the region around the Gerasenes asked him to depart, because great fear had gripped them. And He got into a boat and returned. 38And the man from whom the demons had gone out begged to be with Him. But He sent him off saying, 39“Retrun to your house and describe in full what God has done for you.” And he went away throughout the whole city proclaiming what Jesus had done for him.”

 

          Christian counselors Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend have written a series of books on setting healthy, Christian boundaries in your life. From the book simply titled, Boundaries, they have applied their trade writing on topics that include Boundaries in Dating, Boundaries in Marriage, Boundaries with Kids, and Boundaries with Teens. The preface from the group study version begins, “Many people who want to have healthy lives are unsure about when it is appropriate to say no and set limits. They want to have good relationships and grow spiritually, but they often find it difficult to take ownership of their choices, freedom, and responsibilities. In a word, they do not have good boundaries.”

          Good boundaries are a necessary and healthy part of life. You have to be able to say “No” when it is the responsible, appropriate thing to do. And you have to be able to say “Yes” when it is the responsible thing to do. And you have to be able to distinguish between the two. Cloud and Townsend write, “Made in the image of God, we were created to take responsibility for certain tasks. Part of taking responsibility, or ownership, is knowing what is our job, and what isn’t. . . . Boundaries do more than just allow us to care for ourselves. They also help us care for others in a healthy way. Maintaining boundaries—or to put it differently, taking responsibility for our life—opens up many different options. . . . The freedom that comes with knowing our own boundaries leads to love because love requires freedom.”

          Let’s look at Jesus’ boundaries in our Gospel lesson today. He leaves Jewish Galilee, crosses the Sea of Galilee, and pulls up on the Gentile shores of the country of the Gerasenes. Here Jesus doesn’t seem to be maintaining boundaries, but crossing boundaries! Why would a pious Jew cross over into unclean Gentile territory? Why would He want to share a site with pigs, unclean animals that were forbidden in Israel? And why oh why would Jesus interact with a man who lived in a cemetery when contact with the dead and the one living among the dead would make Jesus ceremonially unclean as well? Jesus has crossed the boundary into everything that is a source of impurity for the Jewish people. That’s three unclean strikes against Jesus and we’re only two verses into the text! Maybe Jesus’ needs to read this book about boundaries! What does Jesus think He’s doing?

          Jesus IS maintaining HIS boundaries, even though they do not overlap with Jewish boundaries. Remember the Song of Simeon? Jesus is “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” as well as “for glory to your people Israel.” Jesus’ boundaries extended further than the Jews expected. We’ve seen this time and time again in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus’ ministry touches lepers and demoniacs, tax collectors and prostitutes, Roman centurions, and even the dead. Jesus’ boundaries encompass all of the lost sheep of the house of Israel AND those who are Gentiles. Jesus’ healing and proclamation of repentance and forgiveness, His bringing near the reign and rule of God in His person and work, extended beyond what the people of Israel imagined. Jesus in not simply Israel’s Messiah, but the world’s Savior. He is the Son of the Most High God who has power and authority over Satan and his demons. He is “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God,” who has taken on human flesh so that He might redeem and save ALL people—Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female (Gal. 3:28).

          So, from the perspective of the Jews, Jesus was crossing boundaries that He should not cross. But from God’s perspective, Jesus was well within His boundaries, which are very large and all-encompassing of all sinners whether Jews or Gentiles. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Lk. 19:10 ESV). “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (Jn. 3:17 ESV). Jesus said, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (Jn. 10:16 ESV). So we read in Luke’s second volume, the Book of Acts, the Church declaring, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18 ESV).

God sent forth His Son, born of the Virgin Mary, true God and true Man, to be the Lord and Savior of ALL people. Jesus suffered and bled on the cross, enduring the wrath of God for sinners the world over. He paid for our sins of gossip and greed, for selfishness and lust. Jesus died in our place to redeem us from our sins of slander and lies, our sins of hatred and deceit, drunkenness and sexual immorality. Jesus suffered and died to win forgiveness for the adulterer, the porn addict, the homosexual. Jesus gave up His life into death to forgive the sins of those who have had abortions, those who have murdered, those who abuse their spouse and children with words and actions. Jesus’ death on the cross has purchased and won for everyone the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.

          That’s you and me, too! We are included in those sinners for whom Christ has died and won our forgiveness so that we might be saved from sin and death. Christians are not better people. Christians are not sinless people. Christians are forgiven and redeemed people by Christ the Crucified and Risen Lord. How privileged you are week after week to come to this church and hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ for you, giving you the gifts of God in Christ! You receive Holy Absolution from the pastor as from God Himself, “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” You hear the Gospel proclaimed from His Holy Word, declaring again to you the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life by grace through faith in Jesus by the power of the Spirit. At Jesus’ own invitation, you kneel at His table to eat and drink His real, true Body and Blood with the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins, life, salvation, and the strengthening of your most holy faith.

          By virtue of your baptismal faith in Christ, strengthened and empowered by His Word and Sacrament, you have accepted His commission. As a Christian, you have accepted the boundaries of Christ so that, even as Jesus commanded the Gentile man that He had healed in our text, so your Lord says to you, “Return to your house and describe in full what God has done for you.” Certainly you have something to say! Truly you have something to share—the Good News of sins forgiven because Jesus lived, died, and rose again to save sinners.

          The healed man went away throughout the whole city proclaiming what Jesus had done for him. Will you? “As you go, make disciples of all nations,” Jesus says. “Tell them what I have done for you, what I have done for them!” To whom will you go? To whom will you declare what Jesus has done for you in winning your forgiveness and life everlasting?

          As you think about that for a moment, consider that Jesus released the unnamed man in our text from his oppression by Satan in casting out the legion of demons within him. The forgiveness of sins that you announce in the name of Jesus Christ through His Gospel does the same. It releases from sin, death, and the devil the one who has been led to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit, faith in the heart receives the gifts of God in Christ proclaimed by the Gospel. As Christians, your task is to push the boundaries of the world back and go to those to whom Christ would have you go—to all those who do not yet confess Him as Savior and Lord by faith, to all those who do not know the blessed release from sin that forgiveness gives, to all who have not yet come to have the fullness of life in Christ Jesus.

          To whom will go? To whom will you declare what Jesus has done in winning forgiveness and life everlasting? Will you go to the gossiper and slanderer and liar? Will you go to the cop hater, the bigot, the racist? Will you go to the homosexual, the adulterer, the porn addict? Will you go to the murderer or the thief or the abuser who sit in jail? Will you go to the Muslim, to the Jew, to the Hindu, to the atheist? Where will the Lord use your gifts, your voice, your talents to share the forgiveness of Jesus Christ with others? Where is the “country of the Gerasenes” to which Jesus will send you by the power of the Holy Spirit? Maybe you’ll have to cross over a comfortable boundary to get there. That’s unnerving, but not impossible. The Holy Spirit is with you. He will give you what to say in that hour because you are Lord’s servant giving His love and grace and forgiveness to set people free from their sins through the forgiveness won for them by Jesus on the cross.

          Everyone needs good and healthy boundaries in their life. By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, we pray that our boundaries are not too small for the precious Gospel each of us has been given to proclaim to fellow sinners so that they might become our fellow saints. In your life of faith and freedom in Christ, in the power of the Spirit, boldly cross over worldly, cultural, and societal boundaries. Declare in the fullest way possible what Jesus has done for everyone through His cross and resurrection, winning for all forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. Amen.  

 


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